As a 16 years old I was like many other teens around me wanting to spend my money on CD’s and DVD’s and computer games but the difference came when at 17 I decided it was time to move out of the family home. I’d passed my driving test and considered myself independent, although I didn’t drive until 4 years later as I couldn’t afford the insurance but as a 17 year old the important bit to me is I was qualified and secondly I needed to be free so at the first opportunity I moved out to live with a friend and start a life on my own.

At 17 years old with no parental security blanket, full time college course and suddenly bills to pay for the first time I needed a job and the first place most teens go to at this point is the good old “Golden Arches” and guess what they accepted me!

So, what’s the point in this story and why is this on the blog of a sales and leadership capability business I hear you ask? Well it’s a blog for all those that have children and all those people starting out in business perhaps studying for business at university or college and wanting to get their first pay check, my message is clear, everyone should seriously consider roles at McDonald’s, it was and still is in my view a great stomping ground to learn about sales and the fundamentals in business, now let me tell you why!

From an early age at McDonald’s you are taught about the premium of service, you are taught the value of up selling, you are taught the techniques of cross selling other products.

You are taught the value of progression and development and you are taught some fundamentals about business and leadership.

Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

Up-selling and cross selling
How often have you stood at that counter and heard?

  • Do you want fries with that?
  • Would you like to add a drink to that order?
  • Would you like to go large for an extra 30p?
  • Would you like to upgrade to a milkshake?
  • Are you eating inside?

Just some of the questions that are drilled into you as a “crew member” going through a sales process for buying a meal and why did we ask all those questions? You guessed it to get to the root of how hungry you are and how much extra money can I make on this transaction?

Average order value a measure a lot of organisations look at in business was a key measure and adding an extra 30p could make all the difference. There was a sense of personal satisfaction when you secured an uplift to the order added a Milkshake for 20p more, went large for an extra 30p or enjoying the comfort of the restaurant for an extra 20p, all this whilst you might not think it primes you for your first sales role and was core to the training you received.

In business you must train your people well and McDonald’s was no different.

McDonald’s trained you in everything and I would say they can pride themselves as an organisation on how well they train their staff, there was a procedure for everything and your reward for knowing these and demonstrating them competently? Yes, you guessed it STARS! No one wants to be the kid with the empty badge with no stars so you worked to develop yourself and get your stars as fast as you could and as an organisation McDonald’s was very encouraging for you to be multi-functional, why because this made you more of an asset as you had more variation in your role and could fill the gaps that others couldn’t meaning you could sweat the resource.

So at 17 I’ve already been exposed to the importance of Sales such as the assumptive close try, “shall I make that a large meal?” and the art of Cross selling with the alternative close “Did you want that with a dessert, “McFlurry” or “Sundae?” – who would have thought you were being closed at McDonalds but trust me you were albeit subtly.

Setting yourself apart as a service and quality provider of food.

Working there you are very aware of the importance of “service” whether that be the amount of time a customer has to spend in the queue or the time they spend at your till while you collect the order or the amount of time you spend in the drive thru lane and at the drive thru window all this is prime time for creating that “fast food” image, but how often did you see the food running around to get your order, no, no, no,  it was the guy in the kitchen barking orders or the girl in the drive thru running around clutching 3 brown bags filled with burgers, it was all about creating that “fast Service” and this helped differentiate McDonalds from it’s competitors, and as with any other business you live and die by how well you create that service experience for your customers.

Supply and demand
We move to the kitchen area and now, as a qualified kitchen hand with all my “stars” it’s my job to ensure that I cook the right volume to the demand, how much produce I cook at any one time to how long I can keep it stored once cooked, how much stock I hold in my freezer to how many buns I have at my station and how stocked up my area is, you are running your own little bit of the McDonald’s empire so the customer gets their “Big Mac” or “6 nuggets” in under 90 seconds and as a 17 year old that’s a lot to think about but it’s just like any other business challenge, what’s the supply what’s the demand and how quickly can you service it,  so whilst when flipping my “Big Mac’s” I might not have been thinking about those key business life lessons, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s primed me for all the roles I’ve done since.

So, working your way through the McDonald’s machine you have 5 stars you are training squad material and you’ve worked your way up to Floor Manager, Shift runner and then if you are lucky you are on the road to Salaried Manager, now that’s progression and something that felt good to aspire to and was made readily available.

That first rung of management at McDonald’s makes you and really starts to shift your thoughts on business. At 17 or 18 you are managing people, you are responsible for how many people are on shift you have to think contingency plans for those typical no shows from people who went out the night before and can’t face a 6am start! You have to plan your people’s breaks, where they work, what station, what skills they have and how many people you have on shift versus the sales you are making keeping that labour cost below that all important 6% and you thought you just turned up to flip burgers for a Big Mac? This McDonalds Machine is priming you for a future as a sales master or Leader of people.

At such a young age you are looking after a turnover of potentially in excess of over £1m, you are responsible for managing so many things that are atypical of other organisations such as waste costs, paper costs, food costs, staff costs etc  and whilst you do them as part of the job as that’s what’s been trained and that’s what you do it was all a fundamental learning for future Sales roles, people and leadership roles making me who I am today.

So, whenever anyone mocks you for applying for a job or if your son or daughter are for working at McDonalds remind them that there not just flipping burgers for a living, they are learning some fundamental skills for sales, service, leadership and management and then tell them to “have a nice day”